Timing. People pick bad times to have fights as a protective measure. They start fights when the time will be limited (when the other person is on his way out the door to work or during the commercial break of a favorite TV show) so they know there is a definite end time to the discomfort of having a fight. Or they pick fights at social occasions because they know their partner won’t be a complete dick in front of other people. Or they pick fights right before bed when they are tired or after they have knocked back a few drinks, and their state of mind is relaxed and uninhibited enough to talk about things they are usually too afraid to bring up.
None of these is a good time to fight. But the problem with waiting for the perfect circumstance is that people have a tendency to talk themselves out of bringing up their grievances if they give themselves any amount of time to reflect. Sometimes fights have to be brought up in the “wrong” circumstances because otherwise the grievance wouldn’t get aired at all. Remember, though, that without enough time or energy or wits about you, the fight will not resolve. If you pick a fight at a bad time, you have to be willing to go back to it later to resolve it, otherwise the fight will be a dumping ground of bad feelings. And bad feelings spewed out without an airing of the other person’s “side” and without a resolution (even if that resolution is agreeing to disagree) breed resentment and hurt feelings.
A good time to fight (or revisit a fight started earlier) occurs when you have enough time to discuss both sides and come to a resolution. So not before bed, not when you have to be somewhere in fifteen minutes and not at a party.
If you give yourselves time to discuss thoroughly the issue you may find yourself in a full-blown fight, with your heart racing and your palms sweaty. If you are experiencing these physical symptoms, or you notice that your partner is, take a time out. Some people enjoy yelling and the intense emotion of a “good” fight, but most people get emotionally overloaded. And once you are emotionally overloaded, there is no point in continuing a conversation because, literally, you can not think correctly. Your heart rate is too high and too much adrenalin is pumping through your body for your brain to process language. Taking a time out doesn’t mean ending the conversation. It means asking for a break for fifteen or thirty minutes while you calm down. You might take a walk. But tell your partner what you’re doing or she might think you’re not coming back. You might write down the points you want to make. Do whatever you find that soothes you. But then come back to the table to finish the discussion. And honor her when she asks for a break. Don’t push to have resolution if she’s emotionally overloaded. Be patient.
Which leads into the next post: Soothing Yourself and Your Partner